Dan Fallon will become the first recumbent rider to attempt Race Around Ireland in August 2017. The Chicago native has had a fascinating journey to his first RAI. His inspiring and pioneering spirit will be a welcome addition to this year’s event. Dan will be raising funds for research on brain cancer through a charitable organisation, 3000 Miles to a Cure.
Don’t let his self-deprecating replies fool you. Anyone who goes looking for hills on a recumbent is one of cycling’s ‘hard men’.
Tell us a little bit about your cycling and racing history to date. Significant events/results etc.
I have no significant upright bike experiences except week-long tours, etc. On the recumbent I hold a UMCA record for fastest recumbent transit of Illinois and Indiana. I’ve entered several other events/races on the recumbent but I don’t consider my performances to be record setting.
Can we get some biographical information: Age, home town, currently residing, day job etc.
I’m 71. I live in the mountains of Arizona, Prescott. Along the RAAM route. I’m a doctoral level private practice clinical psychologist – 2 full days per week.
My wife and I moved to Prescott in 2011 (from Chicago). I prefer cycling in the mountains and the desert. The hot Arizona desert, at 2,000ft above sea level is 40 miles away. Our Prescott home is in the Arizona mountains at 6,000ft above sea level. I have the perfect training terrain.
THIS is a typical flattish training route a short distance from my home.
THIS is a typical flattish training route 60 miles south of my home, in the AZ desert.
And THIS is a typical hilly, switchback-laden, mountain training route literally at my front door. I’ll be doing this later today, when the black ice melts off the mountain roads.
You’ve said you have an Irish/Scottish connection, can you give us some details? Is this your first visit to Ireland? (If so, welcome!)
We understand the Fallons emigrated from Ireland to Scotland during the famine. My father was one of 17 brothers and sisters. They lived and worked in the coalmines near Edinburgh.
My mother’s side of the family (Dolan) came over from Ireland around the same time, during the famine. One of my grandfathers enlisted twice in the U.S. Army during the U.S. Civil War. The Dolan side of the family is distinguished for being career firemen, police officers, priests, nuns, lawyers.
I’ve never been to Ireland. Once to Scotland.
What brings you to Race Around Ireland? What have you heard about the event? What are your expectations in terms of how you will perform and what you will experience?
I’m not much of a spectator or tourist. It bores me to `look at’ stuff. If I’m travelling I need to be `doing’ something. I can’t think of a better way to visit Ireland than to do it in a race on a bike.
Valerio Zamboni is an ultra-cycling acquaintance. I’ve followed his exploits with envy. When I learned that he had done RAI six times I found that the idea was intriguing. Consulting with Valerio I decided to enter RAI.
I’m frankly surprised that no recumbent cyclist has entered RAI. Then again, I’m not surprised. There is a myth that recumbent cyclists don’t ‘like’ hills. The fact is that if a cyclist trains for the hills they will perform well in the hills.
I moved to Prescott largely because of the challenging mountain terrain. I have no physical limitations or problems that cause me to ride a recumbent (e.g., back problem, etc). I just like ‘bents. And I like to race other upright cyclists in the mountains and the hills.
In fact, I have never even MET a recumbent cyclist in my area. I train completely alone. Fast on the descent and typically faster than upright bikes on the climbing, depending on the course and/or event.
Tell us a little bit about riding a recumbent. The difficulties, the advantages and the joy that it brings. What are the specific technical and physical challenges involved and can you detail the specifics of the machine for equipment geeks: weight, height, length, tubing, componentry and, of course, the manufacturer.
I started riding the recumbent in 2008. After a week long training experience on my upright bike in Indiana I found that it was getting boring. A friend suggested recumbents but I thought they were for old men with fat bellies and white beards. Nevertheless, I bought a recumbent and less than a month later completed a 160 mile race with almost no sensation of fatigue … and at a very good speed.
The next year I took the UMCA recumbent records for fastest transit across Illinois and Indiana. The year after that I entered the Race Across the West and DNF’d in Congress, AZ, after 400 miles in 24 hours. I didn’t train enough.
Since RAW I’ve done all kinds of events with the goal of enjoying myself and learning my limits.
Riding in the mountains results in performance capabilities that don’t easily translate to riding in the flats. In the flats the cyclist has to maintain a steady pace without let up. In the mountains the cyclist learns power and pacing on the climbs and is then rewarded with (often) screaming technical descents.
The upside of riding a racing recumbent is that the racer doesn’t experience sore shoulders, neck fatigue, wrist and hand numbness. The downside of riding a racing recumbent is that the racer doesn’t get to throw the bike around, is pretty much locked into a stationary position on the bike.
An upright acquaintance asked me how long it would take for him to get his ‘climbing legs’ on a first-time recumbent vacation in the Italian Dolomites. I told him: “Six months.” He didn’t believe me. He returned from Italy humbled.
Climbing on a recumbent requires patience, discipline and a willingness to experience ridicule from many upright cyclists. Descending on a recumbent requires humility and grace when I scream past upright cyclists who are spinning out at 50 mph.
With time, training and experience a recumbent bike … is just a bike. It is the cyclist that makes the difference.
I ride rear-wheel drive recumbents. Bacchetta CA2 and Bacchetta Ti Aero. I’ve modified these bikes to be more aerodynamic and to enable delivery of power to the legs.
Tell us a bit about your crew. Who’s supporting you? Are they a regular Fallon team?
I will be bringing my crew chief to RAI: Billy Broadfoot. He is a master bike mechanic and has decades of cycling racing experience. I hope to hire three more crew in Ireland.
I’ve had various people crew for me on events, from family and friends to almost complete strangers. It is not an exaggeration to state that building the right crew is critical to a good race.
Finally, how’s the training going this year? How are you preparing for RAI? Are you riding other events?
It is 20-30 degrees colder in the mountains than 40 miles south in the desert. So most of my training in December and January has been ‘south.’ Still, in January I managed to squeak out 650 miles and 25,000 feet of climbing.
Training in the mountains doesn’t equate to ‘miles ridden.’ A 32-mile course with 3,000ft of climbing is entirely different than on the flats. Last February I did a race in Florida (Sebring): 185 miles with less than 1,800ft of climbing. I get 1,800 feet of climbing on 20 miles `up here.’
My plan is to build endurance on rolling and hilly terrain. Although there are some leg-breakers on RAI they do not demand the cyclist to train on leg-breaking mountains to do well. So, rolling and hill training. Probably 1,200 – 1,800 miles per month with less than 50,000 feet of climbing.
Next week I’ll put in an 8 hour event at a local training course.
Time on the bike will be the purpose.
In March I have a 200-mile event (Joshua Tree Double Century) planned.
In April I will be doing a 24-hour event in Houston, Texas (Bessie’s Creek).
May to August I’ll probably stay local to focus on rolling and hilly terrain, with several 24-hour solo events.